Nioxin speak to women about their experiences with hair loss
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About 74 percent of UK adults have felt so stressed at some point in the last year that they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope, and it’s this kind of stress that leads to hair loss. Express.co.uk chatted to Dr Deborah Lee from Dr Fox Online Pharmacy to find out how to deal with stress-related hair loss.
Hair loss is extremely common, with one leading UK hair loss clinic reporting that 40 percent of women and 30 percent of men aged over 25 are concerned about hair loss, and this rises to 70 percent of men aged over 70.
The problem is more common among men, and nearly 40 percent of men will become totally bald at some point.
Hair loss is extremely distressing, with men being more fearful of losing their hair more than they fear being made redundant according to one study.
Although there are many different reasons for hair loss, chronic stress is the most common.
Some hair loss, including stress-related hair loss, is temporary, and treating the problem can lead to regrowth of hair.
Why does stress cause hair loss?
The hair follicle is the target for many proteins and hormones released in response to stress.
These molecules all play a role in the growth of hair and some affect the hair growth cycle.
Hair follicles themselves also produce stress mediators in a ‘skin stress response.’
Stress leads to an increase in levels of Substance P (SP), which is a small protein released from nerve cells in response to stress that is linked to inflammation, the development of atopic dermatitis and psoriasis, and the disruption of the normal hair growth cycle.
Stress also increases the levels of the nerve growth factor (NGF), catecholamines such as adrenaline, noradrenaline and dopamine, prolactin, adrenocorticotrophic, and glucocorticoids – all of which can contribute to hair loss, hair weakness, and scalp concerns.
In normal hair growth, 85 percent of the hair is actively growing (in the anagen phase) and the remaining 15 percent are in a resting (telogen) phase.
A healthy hair will be in the anagen phase for around four years and the telogen phase for around four months.
Hair is shed when the new anagen phase hair grows underneath a telogen hair and pushes it out of the scalp.
Dr Lee said: “Stress of any kind can suddenly cause up to 70 percent of the anagen hairs to be shunted into the telogen phase.
“This means two to four months after the shock or stress a lot of hair falls out all at once. “This is commonly seen after pregnancy, for example.”
If stress is chronic, hair loss can be persistent and you may continue to lose hair for many years.
Dr Lee said: “Stress appears to cause the anagen period to readjust to a shorter time span.
“The diagnosis of stress-induced hair loss can be confirmed by a trichologist.
“The differential diagnosis includes female pattern hair loss, male pattern hair loss, diffuse alopecia areata, anagen effluvium and hair shaft defects.”
How to manage stress-related hair loss
It’s very distressing when you feel you are losing your hair and it can cause intense suffering and can affect your social functioning and ability to work.
Dr Lee said: “Hair loss has severe psychological effects including loss of self-esteem, poor body image, loss of confidence, depression, and anxiety.
“Women with high-stress levels are 11 times more likely to be suffering from hair loss than women with normal stress levels.
“See your doctor if you are concerned about hair loss sooner rather than later.
“The doctor will ask questions and is likely to arrange blood tests to rule out common causes such as iron deficiency, or a low thyroid hormone level.
“There are a range of different types and causes of hair loss, and once a diagnosis is made, the best treatment can be offered. You may need to see a consultant dermatologist.
“You may prefer to arrange to see a hair specialist – a trichologist. This is not available on the NHS. You can find a qualified trichologist here.”
Looking for somewhere to start? Dr Lee has revealed five ways to deal with stress-related hair loss.
Be gentle with your hair and handle it as little as possible.
Dr Lee warned: “Don’t use abrasive hair ties or pull your hair into firm styles like tight braids.”
Trichologists advise it makes no difference how often you wash your hair, so don’t worry if you need to wash it every day.
The doctor said: “If you wash it every two or three days instead of every day, you will just lose additional hair each time you wash it.
“It is important to use the correct shampoo and conditioner to nourish the hair and the hair follicles.
“Treat any underlying medical conditions – your GP will advise you to make sure any underlying scalp conditions are properly treated.”
Rule out any hormonal deficiencies
Make sure you don’t have any hormonal deficiencies such as hypothyroidism and make sure these are properly treated.
If you are menopausal, you may want to consider HRT.
Dr Lee added: “Follow a varied, balanced, nutritionally complete diet – this means plenty of protein, along with fruit and vegetables as these contain high levels of antioxidants.
“This is vital to help combat oxidative stress that affects hair growth and you should also ensure levels of iron, folate, and B12 are adequate
“If you need to follow any kind of restrictive diet, consider taking vitamin and mineral supplements.”
Make time in your life to destress and make this part of your daily routine.
Dr Lee recommends finding a way to enjoy relaxation – this might be yoga, meditation, use of a hot tub or sauna.
She said: “Take regular exercise which is good for stress and improves your blood circulation for your hair follicles.
“You might find keeping a daily journal helps relieve stress., or some people benefit from joining a support group.
“If you can identify major stress in your life that could be underlying your hair loss, it’s a good time to consider counseling and find out what can you do to remove this stress from your life for good.”
Smoking accelerates hair loss, so it’s time to quit the habit.
Dr Lee said: “There are over 7,000 chemicals in cigarette smoke, many of which have negative effects on your hair follicles, reducing blood flow and increasing oxidative stress.
“Smoking also makes your hair drier and more brittle.”
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